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The Bully at Work: Are You Being Bullied? Find Out for Yourself…

After two years of working in the information systems department of an engineering company, Jason found it more and more difficult to get up for work. Where he once enjoyed the office camaraderie, he realized he was being increasingly left out of meetings and after-hours social events. He often felt like he was the target of others’ jokes, and his efforts were put down while others’ were praised. As he struggled to understand what had happened, the image of Jennifer, a co-worker, kept reappearing in his mind. He suddenly realized that Jennifer was often the person who criticized him. Sometimes she had taken credit for his good work. She was probably going to get a promotion that he believed he had earned.

Jennifer didn’t have it in for him. Or did she?

Jason, like many who are the target of a bully at work, found it difficult to accept that another person could plan and carry out a plan of action against a co-worker. While the bully’s target may feel uncomfortable, unhappy or depressed about the way someone is acting toward him at work, he may lack the knowledge or insight to identify the behavior as bullying.

If you suspect you may be the target of workplace bullying, take the self-test below.

Self-Test: Are You Being Bullied?

Consider each of the questions in the self-test below and decide if you Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Disagree or Strongly Disagree with the behaviors that may be happening to you. Then, circle the corresponding number.

Does the person you’re having trouble with:

    Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree
1. Repeatedly:           
-Ignore you.
-Not say hello when you greet them.         
-Not return your phone calls or emails.
5 4 3 1
2. Dismiss what you’re saying or “put you down” while alone or in the presence of others? 5 4 3 1
3. Sabotage you or make you look foolish, by “forgetting” to tell you about a meeting (or) if the person is your boss, set you up to fail by making impossible demands of you? 6 5 4 2
4. Spread rumours, lies and half-truths about you? 6 5 4 3 2
5. Frequently act impatient with you, treating you like you’re incompetent? 5 4 3 2 1
6. Blame and criticize you? 5 4 3 2 1
7. Try to intimidate you by interrupting, contradicting and glaring at you and giving you the silent treatment? 5 4 3 1
8. Tease, ridicule, insult or play tricks on you, especially in front of others? 6 5 4  3 2
9. Always insist on getting their own way and never apologize? They never consider your point of view. 5 4 3  2 1
10. Leave you out of social and work situations as opposed to welcoming and inviting you in. They deliberately make way to exclude you. 6 5 4  3 2
  Total score = _____________          


To get your total score add up the numbers; there is a possible total score of 54.
If your score is 14 or below, it doesn’t look like you’re being bullied. If your score is between 15 and 25, there are indications of bullying behaviour. Naturally, the higher the score, the more pronounced the behaviour. If your score is 30 or above, you are definitely being bullied. As scores increase beyond 30, the severity of the bullying escalates.

Some who take this test find they are not being bullied. If you are one of these people, and are experiencing emotional discomfort because of a work situation involving another person, conflict resolution or assertiveness training may help you. If you discovered that you are indeed being bullied, you also need to learn what to do.

Learning how to respond to a bully at work requires particular strategies because bullies have distinctive characteristics. Bullies have a distorted view of human nature. They view people as objects to be manipulated, rather than as humans with whom to have empathy. They see all interactions through the prism of their own interests, “What’s in it for me?” and strategically manipulate others for their own advantage.

Bullies, however, do not behave like psychopaths who are unable to change their behavior. Studies show that when the spotlight is on a bully—that is, when others recognize their behavior and actions, policies and laws are carried out to stop their bullying ways—the bully, in fact, blends back into the workplace again and stops causing damage. The bully is aware.

The first step belongs to you. You may be asking, “What do I do then?” First, recognize if you are being bullied. Accept that fact so you can then take the next step of helping yourself with a sense of conviction to create protection for yourself. You deserve it!


Valerie Cade, Founder
Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker, and Author of 

Bully Free at Work